Isle of Ely (UK Parliament constituency)

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Isle of Ely
Former County constituency
for the House of Commons
County Cambridgeshire
19181983
Number of members One
Replaced by NE Cambridgeshire
SE Cambridgeshire
Created from Wisbech
Newmarket (part)
Chesterton (part)

Isle of Ely was a county constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, centred on the Isle of Ely in Cambridgeshire. Until its abolition in 1983, it elected one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.

History[edit]

The Isle had previously been represented by two members of the First and Second Protectorate Parliaments, between 1654 and 1658.

The twentieth century constituency was created in 1918. The territory included in the new seat was similar to that previously constituting the Wisbech constituency (the north division of Cambridgeshire). That constituency was dominated by the Fens, a district of Liberal inclined smallholders. The towns in the Wisbech division, predominantly Conservative Wisbech and the more Liberal inclined March, tended to be outvoted by the rural areas.

The small city of Ely had formerly been part of the Newmarket constituency (the east division of Cambridgeshire). Pelling suggests Ely was Conservative "because of the cathedral and its fairly substantial middle-class population".

In 1918 the former Liberal MP for Wisbech, Colin Coote, was returned unopposed as a Coalition Liberal. In 1922 Coote contested the seat again, this time as a National Liberal candidate. A Labour candidate appeared for the first time. The anti-Conservative vote was badly split (National Liberal 27.7% and Labour 21.4%), so the Conservative soldier Lieutenant Colonel Norman Coates was easily elected. Coates retired and did not seek re-election in 1923.

In 1923 the reunited Liberal Party nominated a member of the family of one of their richest members. Henry Mond was the son of the industrialist Alfred Mond (later the 1st Lord Melchett). He was able to squeeze the Labour vote down to 12.4%, which was sufficient for a narrow Liberal victory as part of the party's best election result after the First World War.

In the 1924 general election, both the Conservative and Labour candidates increased their vote. Mond was defeated. The new MP was the Conservative, Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth, Bt. Lucas-Tooth had a long political career, not leaving the House of Commons until 1970, but he only retained this seat for one Parliament until his defeat in 1929.

The Monds had joined the Conservative Party in 1926 after a disagreement with Lloyd George's land policy. However another rich Liberal stood in this constituency in 1929, the flamboyant James de Rothschild. He retained the seat for three Parliaments, serving from 1929 to 1945. In the 1945 general election de Rothschild came third, the first time this had happened to any Liberal candidate in the constituency.

It must have appeared that the days when the Isle seat was a Conservative/Liberal marginal had ended in 1945. The new Conservative MP, Harry Legge-Bourke, had a majority of 6.1% over Labour, with the Liberal almost 10% further behind. He retained the seat until his death in 1973, with Labour in second place. The Liberal Party did not contest general elections in 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964 and 1970. The Liberal vote in 1966 was only 11.4%.

Clement Freud gained the seat for the Liberals from the Conservatives in a 1973 by-election during the height of the 1970s Liberal revival. He retained this seat until it was abolished in 1983; however, Freud surprisingly lost its successor seat in 1987.

The constituency was renamed in 1983, with most of the territory incorporated into the constituency of North East Cambridgeshire.

Boundaries[edit]

In 1918 the county constituency was defined as having the same boundaries as the administrative county of the Isle of Ely, which had been formed in 1889 from a traditional sub-division of the historic county of Cambridgeshire in East Anglia.

In 1965 the Isle of Ely area was merged into the new administrative county of Cambridgeshire and Isle of Ely and in 1974 this merged with Huntingdon and Peterborough to form the non-metropolitan county of Cambridgeshire.

In the next redistribution of parliamentary seats, which took effect in 1974, the Isle constituency was defined as comprising the Municipal Borough of Wisbech; the urban districts of Chatteris, Ely, March, and Whittlesey; and the rural districts of Ely, North Witchford, and Wisbech.

Members of Parliament[edit]

Year Member[1] Party
1918 Colin Coote Coalition Liberal
1922 Norman Coates Unionist
1923 Henry Mond Liberal
1924 Hugh Lucas-Tooth Unionist
1929 James de Rothschild Liberal
1945 Harry Legge-Bourke Conservative
1973 Clement Freud Liberal

Elections[edit]

Elections in the 1910s[edit]

Colin Coote
General Election 1918: Isle of Ely[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Unopposed
Liberal win (new seat)
  • endorsed by Coalition Government

Elections in the 1920s[edit]

General Election 1922: Isle of Ely[3]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Norman Coates 13,552 50.9 n/a
National Liberal Colin Coote 7,359 27.7 n/a
Labour William George Hall 5,688 21.4 n/a
Majority 6,193 23.2 n/a
Turnout 26,599 72.0 n/a
Unionist gain from National Liberal Swing n/a
General Election 1923: Isle of Ely[4]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Henry Mond 11,476 44.7 +17.0
Unionist Max Townley 11,009 42.9 -8.0
Labour Richard Henry Kennard Hope 3,172 12.4 -9.0
Majority 467 1.8 25.0
Turnout 25,657 68.1 -3.9
Registered electors 37,656
Liberal gain from Unionist Swing +12.5
General Election 1924: Isle of Ely[5]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Hugh Lucas-Tooth 13,344 46.1 +3.2
Liberal Henry Mond 11,381 39.3 -5.4
Labour Dermot Johnston Freyer 4,235 14.6 +2.2
Majority 1,963 6.8 8.6
Turnout 28,960 75.7 +7.6
Registered electors 38,281
Unionist gain from Liberal Swing +4.3
General Election 1929: Isle of Ely[6]
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal James de Rothschild 16,111 43.9 +4.6
Unionist Hugh Lucas-Tooth 13,628 37.1 -9.0
Labour Dermot Johnston Freyer 6,967 19.0 +4.4
Majority 2,483 6.8 13.6
Turnout 36,706 75.0 -0.7
Liberal gain from Unionist Swing +6.8

Elections in the 1930s[edit]

General Election 1931: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal James de Rothschild 20,842 64.8 +20.9
Agricultural Party John Alexander Whitehead 6,993 21.8 n/a
Labour Francis Joseph Knowles 4,302 13.4 -5.6
Majority 13,849 43.0 +36.2
Turnout 32,137 63.2 -11.8
Registered electors 50,849
Liberal hold Swing -0.45
General Election 1935: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal James de Rothschild 17,671 51.0 -13.8
Conservative William Garthwaite 16,972 49.0 n/a
Majority 699 2.0 -41.0
Turnout 34,643 66.0 +2.8
Registered electors 52,515
Liberal hold Swing -31.4

Elections in the 1940s[edit]

General Election 1945: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 15,592 40.6 -8.4
Labour Alfred Francis Colenso Gray 13,271 34.5 n/a
Liberal James de Rothschild 9,564 24.9 -26.1
Majority 2,321 6.1 n/a
Turnout 38,427 67.8 +1.8
Registered electors 56,661
Conservative gain from Liberal Swing +8.85

Elections in the 1950s[edit]

General Election 1950: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 21,528 45.0 +4.4
Labour Alfred Francis Colenso Gray 16,565 34.6 +0.1
Liberal Thomas Grenville Jones 9,733 20.4 -4.5
Majority 4,963 10.4 +4.3
Turnout 47,826 79.6 +11.8
Registered electors 60,070
Conservative hold Swing +2.15
General Election 1951: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 26,319 56.9 +11.9
Labour Alfred Francis Colenso Gray 19,915 43.1 +8.5
Majority 6,404 13.8 +3.4
Turnout 46,234 75.9 -3.7
Registered electors 60,918
Conservative hold Swing +1.7
General Election 1955: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 24,862 57.4 +0.5
Labour Alfred Francis Colenso Gray 18,416 42.6 -0.5
Majority 6,446 14.8 +1.0
Turnout 43,278 70.7 -5.2
Registered electors 61,188
Conservative hold Swing +0.5
General Election 1959: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 26,173 57.0 -0.4
Labour Derek Page 19,705 43.0 +0.4
Majority 6,468 14.0 -0.8
Turnout 45,878 74.7 +4.0
Registered electors 61,387
Conservative hold Swing -0.4

Elections in the 1960s[edit]

General Election 1964: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 25,317 56.2 -0.8
Labour Cyril Shaw 19,692 43.8 +0.8
Majority 5,625 12.4 -1.6
Turnout 45,009 73.8 -0.9
Registered electors 61,004
Conservative hold Swing -0.8
General Election 1966: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 21,320 46.2 -10.0
Labour Graham Nurse 19,566 43.8 -1.4
Liberal Derek Malcolm Rigby 5,250 11.4 n/a
Majority 1,754 3.8 -8.6
Turnout 46,136 75.9 +2.1
Registered electors 60,758
Conservative hold Swing -4.3

Elections in the 1970s[edit]

General Election 1970: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Harry Legge-Bourke 28,972 59.9 +13.7
Labour Rex Edgar O'Hare 19,366 40.1 -3.7
Majority 9,606 19.8 +16.0
Turnout 48,338 71.9 -4.0
Registered electors 67,226
Conservative hold Swing +8.7
Isle of Ely by-election, 1973
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Clement Freud 17,390 38.3 n/a
Conservative John Burdett Stevens 15,920 35.0 -24.9
Labour Barry A Young 12,153 26.7 -13.4
Majority 2,483 6.8 n/a
Turnout 45,463 65.8 -6.1
Registered electors 69,069
Liberal gain from Conservative Swing +31.6
General Election, February 1974: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Clement Freud 27,647 49.0 n/a
Conservative John Burdett Stevens 19,300 34.2 -25.7
Labour Michael Brandon Harris 9,478 16.8 -23.3
Majority 8,347 14.8 n/a
Turnout 56,425 83.1 +11.2
Registered electors 67,913
Liberal hold Swing +37.35
General Election, October 1974: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Clement Freud 22,040 41.7 -7.3
Conservative Thomas Stuttaford 19,355 36.7 +2.5
Labour Michael Brandon Harris 11,420 21.6 +4.8
Majority 2,685 5.0 -9.8
Turnout 52,815 77.1 -6.0
Registered electors 68,473
Liberal hold Swing -4.9
General Election 1979: Isle of Ely
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Liberal Clement Freud 26,397 46.7 +5.0
Conservative Thomas Stuttaford 23,067 40.8 +4.1
Labour Colin Harry Saunders 7,067 12.5 -9.1
Majority 3,330 5.9 +0.9
Turnout 56,531 80.8 +3.7
Registered electors 69,954
Liberal hold Swing +0.45

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs – Constituencies beginning with "I" [self-published source][better source needed]
  2. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  3. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  4. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  5. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig
  6. ^ British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, FWS Craig

Sources[edit]

  • Boundaries of Parliamentary Constituencies 1885–1972, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Political Reference Publications 1972)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1918–1949, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (The Macmillan Press 1977)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1950–1973, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Parliamentary Research Services 1983)
  • British Parliamentary Election Results 1974–1983, compiled and edited by F.W.S. Craig (Parliamentary Research Services 1984)
  • Social Geography of British Elections 1885–1910, by Henry Pelling (Macmillan 1967)
  • Who's Who of British members of parliament, Volume III 1919–1945, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (Harvester Press 1979)
  • Who's Who of British members of parliament, Volume IV 1945–1979, edited by M. Stenton and S. Lees (Harvester Press 1981)